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Cigar Review: Punch Signature Robusto

31 Mar 2015

punch-signature-band

I don’t usually pay much attention to cigar peripherals. But some, like the extraordinarily detailed band on EPC’s La Historia, simply demand closer inspection. The Signature’s band (above) is one of those.

punch-signature-robustoAn eye-catching white background showcases old-style lettering reminiscent of a nineteenth century poster, raised printing and varied typefaces, sealed with an illustration of Punch and his dog. A standout on any tobacconist shelf.

The cigar itself is also quite a fine specimen. The wrapper is smooth, oily, and displays no large veins.

This addition to the Punch lineup is getting a big push from General Cigar. There are lots of ads, giveaways, and an interactive website.

The Signature cigars for this review were supplied by General, which sent me five Robustos. They have an MSRP of $6.79 and measure 5 inches long with a ring gauge of 52. There are three other sizes: Gigante (6 x 60, $7.39), Torpedo (5.75 x 52, $6.99), and Rothschild (4.5 x 50, $5.39).

Mindful of the smokers these days who want to know not only details of the blend but the story of the cigar as well, General provided considerable information in its press release. Blender Agustin Garcia says the Signature was inspired by the original Punch blend. Work began in 2012 when he “found a small batch of Ecuadoran tobacco they wanted to use” and teamed with a grower to produce enough of the Corojo wrapper leaf to ensure fulltime production.

The Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers are those used in General’s original Punch blend, with some having been “very aged” and others younger. “The aged leaves bring flavor and balance, and the newer leaves deliver more strength,” according to the press release. The binder is a proprietary Connecticut Habano.

Over the years, StogieGuys.com has had good things to say about many Punch cigars. This posting marks a dozen Punch reviews, and there have been numerous Quick Smokes and Gold Star mentions.

I have to say I didn’t find the Signature as enjoyable as some of the others, primarily due to a sharpness that scratched at the back of my throat for much of the cigar.

Throughout the stick, there was little change in the flavors, and what there was just wasn’t enough to hold my interest by the halfway point. Smoking farther down, though, did offer a reward: By the final third, the sharpness was finally almost gone and that was the most enjoyable part of the cigar.

Signature is certainly not a bad cigar. Construction, as you’d expect from General, is spot-on with an even burn, tight ash, and lots of smoke production. I did find the draw a bit loose and, after a straight cut on the first, used a punch or a V-cut for the others, which helped.

I would certainly recommend giving the Signature a try. For me, the Punch Signature Robusto rates three stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Crux Passport Half Corona

19 Mar 2015

crux-passport-scThis little cigar makes quite a first impression: tight pigtail cap, unfinished foot, oily wrapper, and warm barnyard aroma.crux-pass-sq

And when you begin smoking, it more than lives up to the pre-light promise. Whether you’re looking for a lunchtime smoke, a cold (or hot) weather shortie, or just a small vitola to fit your schedule, Crux’s Passport Half Corona delivers.

The dark Ecuadorian Habano wrapper covers Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos, and the combination results in a relatively strong, tasty cigar. In addition to rich tobacco flavors, the most prominent others I found were coffee, chocolate, and some pepper.

One of five sizes in the Passport line rolled by Plasencia, the Half Corona is 4 inches long with a ring gauge of 42. MSRP is $5.99, and it comes in 20-count boxes.

Other than a bit of a tight draw on one of the five samples sent to me by Crux, construction and performance were solid. As with most smaller cigars, it’s essential to smoke slowly and not draw too deeply so you’ll avoid overheating the tobacco.

When I reviewed the Passport Lancero, almost a year ago, Crux cigars could be found in only a handful of shops. Today, the site lists scores of retailers in more than 30 states that carry the brand.

I wondered how the small operation was being affected by its growing acceptance in the market and checked with Jeff Haugen, who is Crux brand and Tobacco Grove co-owner. “Yes, demand has been exceeding supply,” he emailed me. “We have adapted and changed our production schedule to keep up with demand. We will continue to do this as long as the quality stays consistent.”

The Passport Half Corona is well worth seeking out. I liked it even more than the Lancero and give it four stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Exactus Puro Ambar Short Robusto

16 Mar 2015

ExactusWho doesn’t love lighting up a new cigar about which you know virtually nothing and ending up a fan?

That’s exactly what happened to me with this Dominican puro. It hooked me from the beginning with jalapeño pepper, a bit reminiscent of the old Pepín-blended 601 Reds. After that, the flavors shifted to include some gentler spice, earth, and leather, even a bit of sweetness as the pepper reemerged more in the final third.

Exactus comes from Tabacalera El Artista, which was introduced to me by marketing manager Jonás Santana, who also sent me samples of the Puro Ambar line and its sibling, Puro Ambar Legacy. The company was founded in 1956 and now produces over 7 million cigars annually worldwide, including its own brands.

Blending work on Puro Ambar began in early 2013 and it was released at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show, Santana told me. It comes in two sizes: the Short Robusto (4.75 x 54) that I smoked, and a Short Coloso (5.5 x 60). Retail prices are about $7 and $8.

The Puro Ambar blend is an interesting one. The wrapper is called T13 and listed as an exclusive to Tabacalera El Arista. The binder is a wine-fermented Criollo ’98, with the filler comprising Criollo ’98 and Tabacalera El Arista’s Criollo 1900.

Santana sent me three samples. I smoked two and plan to pass the third along at my local B&M with the suggestion that they consider carrying the line. (The Exactus site has an interactive display of retailers who carry its cigars.)

Construction generally was fine, especially the draw. I did have to do a couple of relights on each stick, primarily, I think, because the thick wrapper was prone to going out when sitting, even briefly. The burn was, nonetheless, even and slow, producing lots of smoke.

If you like bold, spicy cigars, this is one to try. I rate this a strong four and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: Punch Rare Corojo El Diablo

9 Mar 2015

This cigar isn’t so much a smoke as a commitment.

Rare Corojo El DiabloWith a whopping 66-ring gauge and measuring 6.5 inches long, you’d be forgiven for worrying that El Diablo might become El Aburrido. Not a problem; it’s not a boring cigar, though it is certainly a long-lasting one.

The multi-nation tobacco blend leads to a complex, enjoyable smoke. The wrapper is Ecuadorian Sumatra, the binder a Connecticut broadleaf, and Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican leaves comprise the filler.

Each year General Cigar tweaks the lineup for this annual release, and for 2014 it added two sizes: El Diablo for the regular cast and the Rare Lapiz figurado as a limited edition.

The price for El Diablo is $8.25, tops for the line. Online discounters advertise 20-count boxes for about $120. General provided two samples for this review.

Both performed excellently, though getting an even, thorough light takes considerable time and attention, as it often does with big-ring cigars. El Diablo, packed with tobacco and heavy in the hand, had a fine draw, even burn, and great smoke production.

The oily, reddish wrapper is smooth, displaying few veins and giving off a sweet pre-light aroma. The first flavors I got were the leather and earth I often associate with Honduran tobacco. They were joined by a light coffee taste and a bit of spice. Along the way, there are also hints of cocoa, nuts, and burned sugar.

I’d rate the strength as medium. Aging potential would seem to be good in the short term, though I wouldn’t be inclined to let them go more than a couple of years for fear too much might dissipate.

While I can’t claim to have smoked the Rare Corojo annually since its 2001 reincarnation, I have sampled them off and on through the years. The 2015 El Diablo strikes me as perhaps the best I can recall, smoother and more complex than in previous years.

Combined with its relatively low price, El Diablo’s easy to recommend. I know I plan to try other sizes as well. I rate El Diablo three and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Cigar Review: La Aurora Untamed Robusto

3 Mar 2015

If La Aurora was an actor, this creation would be playing against type. Long identified with prototypical Dominican cigars, the enduring manufacturer offers up something different from band to blend.unnamedbox

untamed-rSo far, this effort to tap into the growing market for stronger cigars has met with much success since its debut at last year’s IPCPR Trade Show. Many bloggers have praised Untamed, and Dominican Cigar Review chose it 2014’s Cigar of the Year.

And it’s difficult to overstate the significance of the line when the company itself touts it in a press release as “a step towards the future.”

What’s different? Well, for starters, the cigar’s filler has none of the typical Seco leaves—milder tobacco from the middle of the plant—and an abundance of stronger Dominican Ligero. The binder is Dominican and the dark wrapper is U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro.

On the cosmetic level, La Aurora’s usually stately lion has been transformed into a toothy, ferocious beast dominating the distressed-style box and the cigar’s large band.

The line comes in five sizes, with the Robusto (5 x 50) the smallest. I was sent three samples for review. Checking online, a single Robusto appears to retail for about $7.50.

Untamed offers a pleasant, sweet, fruity pre-light aroma from the wrapper. I worried that the burn might be a problem because of the thick wrapper and blend makeup, but the three I smoked performed perfectly. Both draw and smoke production were excellent.

My disappointment came with a harshness I experienced from the beginning. It was aggressive, particularly so in the first half, often nearly overwhelming the prominent deep espresso flavors and pepper. I didn’t find a lot of the sweetness often associated with Maduro wrappers, though there was more in the final third.

I think this cigar could age well, with humidor time perhaps smoothing out the harshness and allowing the other flavors to come to the fore.

When a major manufacturer such as La Aurora tries something new, it’s always a good idea to give it a try. I’d urge anyone who likes stronger cigars to pick up a couple and form your own impression. I give the Untamed a respectable three and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more StogieGuys.com cigar reviews, please click here.]

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Commentary: Yes, It Was Time to Smoke THAT Cigar

23 Feb 2015

Opus 2

Many of you, I’m guessing, suffer from the same malady afflicting me: You are less and less likely to smoke a cigar as it gets older and older.

I’ve recognized my affliction for quite some time, but efforts to combat it never worked. It was just too easy to convince myself that, for whatever reason, the time simply wasn’t right to justify burning a special cigar.

Recently, though, I made a breakthrough. I decided a couple of months beforehand that my 65th birthday would be the perfect occasion to light up the oldest cigar in my humidor.

That cigar is—or, rather, was—a nearly ten-year-old OpusX bought at a now-shuttered Clearwater, Florida, shop not long after we moved down here. From the below photo, you can see that the cellophane had yellowed; what you can’t see is the extraordinary plume covering the wrapper.

Opus

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve smoked a few Opus cigars, but none with that much age. I needn’t have worried. It was truly an extraordinary experience. Even at almost a decade, it still kicked off with some strength. That dissipated early on as the nutty, warm, and creamy flavors ramped up.

It was as complex and smooth as any cigar I can recall. The white ash hung on tightly as the stick burned ever so slowly, producing thick, rich smoke.

All in all, this Opus was everything a cigar should be. Oh, that I had bought a box back then…

Well, I can’t change what I did, or didn’t, do ten years ago. But I can change my behavior going forward and make sure I enjoy the cigars I have in my humidor.

To that end, I recently opened a box of 2011 My Father Limited Edition Toros to share. The cigars were tasty and extraordinarily smooth. Frankly, I can’t imagine them improving with further age, so I plan to smoke the remaining stash in the coming months.

I’ve also identified my next event and event cigar: a Cuban Cohiba Behike I’ll ignite to celebrate the occasion when a friend and former colleague signs her book contract.

Several years ago, my colleague wrote about this very issue, warning readers against “waiting for a perfect cigar moment that may never come.” He was exactly right, and I’m trying to heed his advice.

After all, there’s no shortage of things to celebrate. And no better way to celebrate than with a great cigar.

-George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Nub Cafe Espresso 438

22 Feb 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief verdict on a single cigar of “buy,” “hold,” or “sell.”

nub_espresso

I’ve been curious about Nub’s line of coffee-flavored cigars since its introduction last year. I picked up this short (4 inches), thin (38 ring gauge) Sumatra-wrapped stick for about $3.50. The dominant note is sugar, which lingers on the lips. The coffee flavor is akin to a cup heavily creamed and sweetened. Otherwise, there’s little taste or finish. On the plus side, construction, burn, and draw were excellent. But my curiosity is satisfied.

Verdict = Sell.

-George E

photo credit: Nub Cafe